The Young Mothers’ Jazz Oppression

Free all-stars break down onerous systems

Recently dubbed one of the “most interesting and original acts in Texas – perhaps the entire planet,” by Chronicle Music newsman Kevin Curtin, the Young Mothers create a musical melting pot of free jazz, punk rock, hip-hop, grindcore, and any other elements stuck in the sextet’s crosshairs.

Jazz Oppressors: (l-r) Jonathan Horne, Francisco Rosaly, Jason Jackson, Jawwaad Taylor, Stefan Gonzalez, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (Courtesy of Us/Them Group/Photo by Peter Gannushkin)

Austin-based Norwegian expatriate and world class bassist Ingebrigt Häken Flaten culled the group from musicians he played with in Austin (guitarist Jonathan F. Horne), Houston (singer/trumpeter/programmer Jawaad Taylor, saxist Jason Jackson), Dallas (drummer/vibraphonist Stefan Gonzalez), and Amsterdam (drummer Frank Rosaly). Morose, the Mothers’ forthcoming sophomore LP, illustrates the members’ ability to richly merge their component parts into a spectacular whole. Though there’s a lot of variety, the band bonds over the jazz component of the equation.

“Because we all come from jazz and improvisational backgrounds, we understand how to listen and embellish,” explains Taylor on the phone from Houston. “Also, we all listen to so many different forms of music and incorporate that. It’s such a diverse act. We hash out our differences, musically and otherwise, and are able to speak to one another.

“I think it’s a great example of how people from different backgrounds can find common ground to make something beautiful happen.”

One of the album’s most eclectic and aggressive tracks, “Jazz Oppression” blasts away for less than three minutes, taking full advantage of Gonzalez’ penchant for crusty growls.

“I wrote the verse and Stefan said, ‘Hey man, I’m gonna scream that song!’” laughs Taylor. “Ingebrigt had that bass line already worked out, and from there we started adding on to it. It just turned into what it is.”

Despite its surface severity, the title came from a lighthearted place.

“The idea of ’jazz oppression’ was just hilarious to us,” admits the horn man. “We were talking about breaking down oppressive systems at first, but then we were like, ‘Ah shit, jazz is an oppressive system, too.’ [Laughs] It’s a tongue-in-cheek wink or nod at folks who are über-serious about the tradition.”

Between the band’s omnivorous approach to what constitutes jazz and its willingness to playfully poke holes in any formalist notions of what the music is or isn’t, the Mothers practically invite criticism from purists. Thus far, however, that’s rarely the case.

“We run in free jazz circles, and those circles are so big, wide, and international at this point that we don’t necessarily cross paths with purists,” says Taylor with another laugh. “If we were to, they couldn’t test us, honestly, so I’d be willing to speak to ’em about, like, why is it you’re stuck in a tradition and not trying to expand it? I would welcome the conversation, because I believe we’re adding onto the language and stretching it.”

Morose arrives on June 22 via local imprint Self Sabotage Records. The Young Mothers tour Europe this month and begin a Stateside tour later this year.

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Young Mothers, Ingebrigt Häken Flaten, Jonathan F. Horne, Jawaad Taylor, Jason Jackson, Stefan Gonzalez, Frank Rosaly

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